By Nick Butler

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is the latest international leader to announce that he will not attend Sochi 2014 ©AFP/Getty ImagesDecember 25 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become the latest high profile international figure to announce he will not attend the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, although Swiss and Czech leaders will attend.

Although Israel's relations with Russia have improved in recent times, with Netanyahu meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin for discussions in Moscow last month, he has reportedly declined a formal invitation to attend the Games which begin next February.

According to the Hebrew Ma'ariv, sources in the Prime Minister's office to which the invitation was sent, a trip to the Games was never considered.

There are no suggestions whether Netanyahu's absence is anything to do with the supposedly anti-gay rights laws introduced earlier this year which have provoked so much international condemnation, nor if other members of the Israeli Government will attend.

Netanyahu and Putin attend a joint press conference in Moscow last month following talks ©AFP/Getty ImagesIsrael's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Moscow last month following talks ©AFP/Getty Images

But Netanyahu remains the latest addition to an ever-growing list of non-attendees which already includes German President Joachim Gauck and French leader Francois Hollande as well as the leaders of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Moldova and Georgia.

Neither United States President Barrack Obama nor vice-president Joe Biden will attend, with the White House delegation to be led instead by three openly gay figures in former tennis player Billie Jean King, ice-hockey star Caitlin Cahow and figure skater Brian Boitano.

Although members of British and German Governments will make the journey it is also thought that their respective leaders, David Cameron and Angela Merkel, will stay away.

Several other leaders have announced plans to attend.

Czech Republic Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok said he believes that boycotting international sporting events is counterproductive and usually makes matters worse, while his country sees the Olympics as a good opportunity to promote its businesses.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Swiss leader Ueli Maurer, who disagreed with sending a human rights message to Russia by boycotting the Games and said that "if Russia has a different attitude towards homosexuality that doesn't suit me, then I have to accept that."

Consistently adopting such a principled stance would isolate Switzerland because there would be reasons to avoid attending most other countries, he added.

President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer will attend the Games in Sochi, he has announced ©AFP/Getty ImagesPresident of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer will attend the Games in Sochi, he has announced ©AFP/Getty Images

Calls against a politically motivated boycott also came from an unexpected source in the form of one of Putin's staunchest political opponents, former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was released from prison last week after a decade behind bars.

He insisted that the Olympics are "a celebration of sports, a festivity for millions of people, so shouldn't be spoiled - it would be wrong."

But the amnesty that led to Khodorkovsky's release was criticised by members of the dissenting punk band Pussy Riot, who were also released, and who suggested that it was a cynical ploy by Putin to reduce international criticism ahead of the Olympics Games.